I’m in Lexington for the day as my little car gets fixed. It’s occurred to me as I run errand after errand that I have an interesting relationship with this place and, likely, most Kentuckians do from our parts of the state.
For most of us, this is the place where we gain access to the “big” city, with its Target and restaurants and mall and specific services. This is the place I come when I have to get my shoes cobbled. I’ve come to get my luggage fixed. I’ve bought a cake at a French bakery that was in the shape of a high heel shoe. And it was delicious.
It makes for an interesting dynamic, a dynamic I don’t have with any other city.
For, even though I am, deep down, a mid-sized city girl, I don’t ever look forward to going to Lexington and, indeed, try to put it off as much as possible. This is likely exactly why I don’t like coming here much: by the time I finally come, I have so many errands stacked up and busy work to accomplish that I don’t have any time to actually get to know the city. I’ve never been to Ashland, Henry Clay’s estate. I’ve never been to the botanical gardens. I haven’t even been to the Horse Park.
In fact, even when I eat here, my restaurant is always chosen according to its proximity to the errands I’m running. This usually lands me somewhere close to or inside Fayette Mall. I can’t tell you how many bowls of hot and sour soup I’ve had at P.F. Changs. I can’t even count how many breadsticks at Olive Garden.
The thing is, I don’t even like Olive Garden, in part because I spend the whole time wishing I’d ordered some kind of creamy, cheesy pasta instead of the soup and salad special I always force myself to get. Hence, the breadsticks.
But, it’s close to the mall and I always have to stop there for something. You’d think that would be fun, but, because my time is short, it’s reduced to more errands, like getting new strings for a tennis racket or replacing the CO2 canisters for the Soda Stream.
Today, I have to pick up some perfume. Again, you’d think that would be enjoyable, but I’ve been wearing the same kind for the past 20 years, so it’s simply a matter of picking it up like you would, say, a pair of tube socks and moving on. Except: not a pair of tube socks as perfume is just shockingly expensive.
Still, I can’t believe how rarely I come to Lexington now compared to how much it was necessary 15 years ago when I first moved here. I mean, Liquor Barn, for one. Whewee, was that a monster stop. Frankly, my trunk would be so full I still thank my lucky stars that I never got stopped and charged with bootlegging. Inevitably, I’d hold up the line as the wide-eyed cashier would ring up bottle after bottle.
“Having a party?” she would ask, somewhat hopeful for an invitation.
“No,” I’d say. “Dry county.”
She’d bow her head and nod sagely.
Same thing with Whole Foods or Wild Oats, as it used to be called. I’d go and buy outrageously crazy items like leeks and lamb and cheese that wasn’t orange or cubed. Now, since food tastes have so expanded and Kroger has followed suit (bless!), I almost always find exactly what I need at home in town.
But Critchfield Meats is still a stop I almost always make, and it’s the highlight of my whole trip. The men there are so knowledgeable and nice, and they always wrap up all of my requests in tidy, little packages, perfect for the freezer.
Of course, I should approach my day in Lexington with the same gratitude I feel when I’m at the Critchfield counter and they tell me of course they can cut me beef bones in three-inch pieces so my beef broth will be extra rich and tasty. Come to think of it, the way they behave is exactly how I’m treated when I’m practically anywhere in a small town.
Hey, wait a minute: is it possible that’s why I like it so much? Maybe I’m a small-town girl, after all.